Ghosts of Horology Past: The Watches That Haunt Us To This Very Day

By: Two Broke Watch Snobs

Disclaimer: The following tales of woe, dread, and sheer terror are not for the faint-hearted or weak-wristed.  If you are squeamish or quick to startle this might not be the article for you.  If however, like us, you are still chased by your own horological demons, pieces so horrifying that you have not been able to shake the feeling of them off, then you may find some solace among the poor souls who present these stories for your approval.  Without further ado, the writers of TBWS humbly present… 

“Shit Follows” by Henry Margenau

You’ve heard the tale before.

“Watches were always on my radar.”   

Even before I became a card-carrying member of the Watch Fam I had a sense about them, a morbid curiosity.  I’d been given a few watches over the years.  Though I never really considered myself a watch person and, indeed, hadn’t worn a watch for most of my life there was always a gravelly voice in the background that I couldn’t ignore.  It would whisper to me, even as a child.  Tick-tock.  Tick-tock. (NOTE: Yes, the sound of quartz, you fucking snob).

I had no idea that one day I would have a strange encounter with a timepiece that would shake me to my very core, an encounter that would make everything else fall eerily into place for years to come.  

It was sometime around 2012, a precarious time for all.  According to the Mayan calendar, the world was about to end and the most recent apocalyptic fervor caused many to reevaluate their priorities.  

Have I been a good husband and father?!?  Am I happy, I mean REALLY happy with my career?!?  Should I own a watch?!?!?!?

I was not yet married or a parent and had just practically started my career but the threat of a looming rapture made me reconsider the really important things.  God dammit, I SHOULD own a watch!  What’s stopping me?  This, coming off the heals of the late two-thousand aughts where large watches were king and the majority of timepieces I’d observed in the wild on the wrists of friends and passersby alike were substantial, industrial, ornamental things.  To this day I haven’t figured out why, but I too wanted a chunk of rubber and steel strapped to my arm, weighing me down and forcing me to walk with a slouch.

But where to begin?  Where to search?  What to buy?

As with most supernatural stories, it was the watch that found me.  I still cannot remember how I stumbled upon Invicta (I mean, maybe it was the screaming yellow boxes…) but I know that this brand and this particular monkey’s paw came into my field of vision.  

At first glance, the Invicta Sea Hunter (ref. 1547 for you who want to tempt fate) had a lot going for it.

Not knowing anything about watches, this smacked of the type of thing I’d want around my wrist any day.  I was a naïve young lad in my salad days!  Hell, I didn’t consider things like brand history.  I didn’t know what a “movement” was or that it mattered if it needed a battery or not (or that there was an entire online community of neck-bearded watch morlocks who gave such a severe fuck about it!).  Dimensions didn’t mean a thing to me.  All I knew was that this thing looked COOL.

That’s exactly how it began.  I watched a YouTube video where someone reviewed this watch and, not only did it look cool, but I remember the person doing the review took a nail (like a huge carpenter nail) and tried to scratch the glass on the front of the watch (what I would come to learn was called the “crystal”).  He really dug into it but, alas, NO scratches!  What was this wonderous material?  Mere glass couldn’t withstand this type of punishment.  No, it was something different.  Have you heard of Hardlex?  Of sapphire?  Yes?  Well how about…FLAME FUSION?!?

And that’s not the only thing that set this watch apart from all the others I’d seen.  It also had a huge left-handed crown (strategically placed there so that it wouldn’t dig into your wrist), a date at FOUR o’clock, 100 whole meters of water resistance, and a badass red shark (yes, SHARK) at six.  This was truly a timepiece not to be trifled with.

I was sold.  I bought the watch new from a random seller on eBay for the whopping amount of $60 or $70.  It finally arrived about a week later.  When I opened the mailing box the yellow Invicta box hit my corneas like the brightness of a thousand suns.  

I lifted the lid to reveal the watch inside and that’s when the true terror started.  Maybe I should have thought about proportion.  I strapped the Sea Hunter to my wrist and this thing was heavy.  As I’ve recounted to friends since, Invicta is the watch to wear if you want to feel like you’re doing hammer curls whenever you want to check the time.  The proportions were, indeed, larger than life, larger even than would be desirable at a time like 2012 when larger watches were trending.  Here are some of the specs of this beast and, please, skip past this part if you are easily moved to nausea (and if you’ve, somehow, managed to get past the above shown picture of that yellow box without getting seasick):

  • 50mm case diameter
  • 13mm case thickness
  • 26mm lugs
  • Lug to lug = who knows???

Needless to say, I tried to rock this piece for all it was worth ($60-$70 as I mentioned previously).  Oh, Watch Fam, how I did try.  I remember someone once saying, “Wow.  That’s a huge watch!”  I’m still not sure how that made me feel.  I wore it, though, as this was to be my watch.

In the year or so that followed, however, I stumbled upon sites like Worn and Wound who, in those days, were covering truly value-driven watches (remember the ol’ Maratac Pilot?).  It was on this site that I first encountered the splendor of pre-price hike Seikos.  In fact, I fell deeply, as I imagine many of you have, for the Seiko SNK series watches.  I learned about the brand, and other brands, and what made them respected.  I learned about automatic movements and rotors and mainsprings (oh my).  It’s said that, ironically, as knowledge increases satisfaction often decreases which is precisely what happened with my Sea Hunter.  For practically the same price, I could have gotten an SNK809, a respected watch from a good brand with an automatic movement and a display caseback (yet another term I learned!).  

But what to do about the hulking Sea Hunter?  I suppose I could sell it and use the money to get what I really wanted (and needed).  Luckily, I was able to find a buyer, secure the funds, and purchase my first “serious” watch.

And yet the spirit of the Invicta Sea Hunter would remain with me.  Like a child with a supernatural gift, I could see and feel this dark presence constantly.  It latched onto me, became a part of me in ways that would be unexpected and would send chills down my spine whenever I realized what was happening.  

It’s simple dial layout would pop up in skin divers I would eventually purchase:

It’s hulking size in watches that were just a little too large but which compelled me forward:

Perhaps I’ll never be rid of this demon.  Perhaps I’m forever cursed.  Even though the watch on my wrist might be 36mm and it might have a light, handwound movement, sometimes I still feel the heft of an Invicta pulling me down, down, further into the darkness!

“The Telltale Tissot T-Complication Squellete” by Damon Bailey

It was a dark and stormy night in the tropical arm pits of El Salvador. Damon was obsessing over what timepiece would best define him. It was a past time, of course, that haunted the minds of every developing watch enthusiast who was just starting to discover a world beyond Movado and Citizen Eco-drives.

Having never spent more than fifty bucks on a pair of jeans or seven grand on a car, the idea of needing to prove I was worth anything more than a watch that could already harness the power of the sun was beyond me. Nonetheless, I was a compulsive dreamer. And in a place significantly outside of one’s natural habitat, the mind has a way of escaping with phenomenal aggression. Before I knew it, I was tracing the steps of Kurtz—a la Heart of Darkness, consumed with vanity and validation. You know… the very stuff watch collecting was made of.

Surrounded by Miami-based dinks, or “double income, no kids,” the idea of a tightly controlled flair was a seductive one. Moreover, owning something that resonated both craft and originality was to be valued. Seems reasonable enough, right?

I feel compelled to illustrate my conception of watch tastes to this to degree because in no other scenario…. in no other bizarro butterfly effect universe… could I have dreamt that my gateway foray into horology could have been a Tissot T-Complication skeleton-dialed timepiece. 

But it was. And I’m going to have to live with that.

(A whopping 43mm of “Let-let-let-let—let the beats drop” energy)

As far as decision making goes, it could have been infinitely worse… that’s not beyond me. It could have been a barbed-wire tattoo… maybe “no regerrts” across a bicep… or that gal I met when we docked into port… what’s her name… Portulakka? “Portulakka forever.” Or syphilis.  Or it could have been a love-child with Portulakka. 

But neither here nor there.

At the time of its release, the T-Complication was Tissot’s most expensive offering. Thankfully, I found it through the gray market. Its purchase was a sober decision. Because size was a concern, I even cut a circle out of cardboard that measured 43mm across and placed it on my wrist just to be sure I could handle its girth. Then I waited a painful four weeks as it cleared customs.

Upon receiving it, two thoughts crossed my mind:
A. “Oh my God.  It’s beautiful.”

B. “Oh my God. Literally everybody’s going to think I’m a coke dealer.”

And so, in its box, it sat. 

For years my tastes continued to evolve, all the while my telltale heart of a Tissot was ignored by a prejudice growing inside me… until the day might come where it wouldn’t be. It must have been early 2019 that a friend of mine from out of town swung by my place to catch up over old times. On his wrist was a skeleton-style watch—a Fossil one at that. “Oh this?” he asked in a New Orleans drunken drawl. “I saw it in a Macy’s and bought it on impulse, man. I just liked it and I’ve worn it ever since.”

“But, Matthew, my good man,” a cavalier version of me replied. “A gentleman of your caliber needs but a gentleman’s watch!” Without giving him a chance to be offended, I stumbled to the depths of my storage closet and returned with the now “heirloom-worthy” Tissot in all its glory.  They guy was stunned.

I often wondered, since he’d left with it on his wrist, if his impression of it had since weathered. 

But wouldn’t you believe it? Upon seeing his latest Instagram post captioned, “She said yes,” I saw a velvet box cupped by an eerily similar chunk of bling around the wrist.

Then it hit me. I’d actually become proud of that little ticker and its journey. Because it was in that moment… a moment inspired by every scenario recounted by Hodinkee where a guy was impulsively gifted a Rolex by his grandfather… that I realized, “what’s one man’s tricked-out coke dealer accessory is another man’s treat of a treasure.”

“The Curse of the Dead Microbrand” by Baird Brown

Leave it to me on a dark and peaceful night, on a vacation in Florida, to hunt around on a four inch screen for my next purchase. It was around 2016, and back then I had a taste for Microbrand watches that just couldn’t be quenched. And while, for the most part, I’d had the luck of the Irish with them, a storm was moving in. 

As memory serves this had already been a hard week. My Stepfather had suffered a heart attack and my Mom was in shambles about it, and while he would eventually pull through, things were touch and go for a while. Work had also been testing. It was my first year running parts at our dealership, and mistakes were made, to say the least, and the void in my soul yearned for something to fill it as if the box of Publix Fried Chicken I had eaten for dinner hadn’t existed. 

After searching the forums, I ran across a watch that stared back at me with its colonial sword logo. Like a ghost from a completely made up brand history, the Mercer Durham came to me with promises of glory. It had a square case, a beautiful chocolate dial, and a baby blue second hand for that pop of color.  It even came with a Swiss Made STP 1-11 movement that beat at 28800 bph!!!  The promises the old revolutionary war soldier promised.  It was used, but barely, as they had just come out within the last year.  I was smitten by its gaze, and soon I would learn that behind that beautiful dial was a curse… and now I was its rightful owner. 

Shaped like a Heuer Camaro, this beauty seemed to be all I ever wanted, but little did I know the storm loomed. Up to this point, I’d had some really good luck with micros. I usually would buy them new and never had a need for the warranty they would come with.  I had no reason to believe that this watch would be any different. It was well taken care of.  Mercer had a lot of hype around this watch and their Lexington had been popular. 

However, it wasn’t long before I realized I’d welcomed the Vampire into my house. Within weeks the STP was already exhibiting some issues.  And not regulation issues, but the kind where the watch doesn’t run. With no warranty I was stuck with a flaming turd in a bag.  Having no other choice, I opened up the watch to find a screw had come loose and fallen inside stopping the movement. Easy peasy.  The watch was back In running condition. 

The Mercer wasn’t done with me yet. Not long after the screw had been replaced, I pulled the watch out of the box to find that when I tried to wind it, it felt as though someone inside was spooling up for a hammer throw.  Furthermore, the watch wouldn’t wind itself!  Again, opening up the watch, I found the reverse wheels to be locked up, meaning that the rotor was now physically connected to the winding stem.  Bull. Shit. Having no way to buy STP parts, I ended up having to replace them with reversing wheels from a Sellita. No harm, no foul, I had won the day again. Although, in my mind, I never could shake the feeling of love/hate I had for this watch, and It always seemed as though it was on my wrist when my luck seemed to run out. 

I guess the Durham’s final revenge wasn’t that it would break again, on the contrary it has run fine since, but If you followed Mercer you’ll realize that the company became a leather goods site, and finally, a rotting corpse.  With that, the value plummeted, the watches fell into obscurity and are surely to become a watch you find on eBay In thirty years with a name on it you’ve never heard of and can’t find any information about. 

Follow TBWS On Instagram

In that vein, it’s almost stuck with me for good.  If you’ve ever wondered why people stay in the house that is supposedly haunted, that’s why. If you’re honest about it, it’s impossible to unload, at least for any value. You’ve put too much in it to give it away. So like Michael Myers in Smith’s Grove, the watch tends to sit in a drawer waiting for the day that it can come out and wreak havoc again. 

 
Advertisement
   

1 thought on “Ghosts of Horology Past: The Watches That Haunt Us To This Very Day”

  1. I had already purchased a seiko snk and an eco-drive so I wasn’t a total horology dope. Then I became one; bought a brand new Epos skeleton watch. Seemed so cool in pictures. When I got it, I realized after a few months, it was an over priced piece of junk. Decent car finishing, totally illegible and the movement decoration looked similar to the $50 skeleton watches on eBay. A 2892 surely deserves better. I flipped it at a massive loss. I paid a price but at least now I can recognize a crappy swiss brand when I see one.

    Reply

Leave a Comment